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2011 Ford Fiesta - Dead Engine

My wife drives a 2011 Ford Fiesta. The car has 24K miles and is still under warranty. The car was always serviced at Ford dealers except for the last time. Three weeks ago and 800 miles prior to failure, the engine oil was changed at one of the big tire brand places. After that the car did smell a little funny inside the cabin and I thought is was because how unclean my wife keeps the interiors.
Last week when my wife was driving to work, the car started to steam up on the inside and died after a few miles. There was no indication of overheating or low oil pressure in the dash when it started steaming. However, the check engine light and oil pressure warning came on just a few seconds before the car died. I asked my wife to call Ford’s roadside assistance and wait till I got there. When I got there, I opened up the hood and found that the engine coolant filler cap and brake fluid reservoir cap were missing. I checked the engine oil level using the dip stick and it showed full.

I called the oil change guy and told him what I found and he asked me to get the car towed to his shop instead. The car was towed to the oil change guy and after inspection he said that the engine is toast. He also said that the thermostat housing and the radiator werecracked and this is what led to the coolant leak. The engine failure had nothing to do with the missing coolant reservoir cap.

Then I got the car towed to the nearest Ford dealer to get their opinion. After inspection the Ford dealer confirmed the cracked thermostat housing but said that the missing coolant reservoir cap led to overheating of the engine. And the cracked thermostat housing was a result of overheating engine.

I am trying to figure out who is liable for the damaged engine. Since the car is under warranty it is either Ford’s or the oil change guys liability. What led to the engine failure? Could a missing coolant filler cap lead to evaporation of coolant and finally overheating the engine to failure. Any help would be appreciated.

Whoever left the radiator cap off is definitely responsible for the damaged engine.

The raditor cap allows the coolant to operate at elevated temperatures without boiling over, because ot allows it to pressurize to typicallly 15psi. Pressurized fluid boils at higher temperatures. Remove the radiator cap and most engines WILL overheat and the coolant will boil out.

The cracked T-stat housing and cracked radiator tank are also both caused by the raditor cap having been left off. The coolant keeps these too at stable operating temperatures, and once the coolant boils out and the engine overheats all bets are off.

Have everything documented in detail and contact a lawyer. Keep excellent records.

Another sad story about the dangers of chain maintenance shops. They definitly are responsible, and they definitly will try to avoid it. I quit using them after finding my brake reservoir cap off. Are there decent ones? I’m sure there are, but it all depends on who’s working that day…

I agree with @thesamemountainbike

Contact a lawyer and give him access to all of the maintenance records. Let him call Ford corporate and the tire shop’s corporate office. If they don’t want to play ball, have him contact them in writing, registered mail, preferably. That might motivate them to get off their behinds and do the right thing

The cap that was missing is not the metal radiator cap but rather the plastic cap of the plastic coolant expansion tank. Does this cap and tank see pressures of 15 psi.

In this image A and E were missing.

Many cars no longer have a cap on the radiator, the cap on the reservoir is the pressure cap.

I agree that the shop did the damage and were negligent when servicing your car.

Imagine if the brake fluid level had gone down far enough due to the missing cap to make the brakes ineffective.

While it’s not the old fashioned metal cap, it is a pressure cap, the tank is under pressure, so leaving it off will cause the car to overheat:

“Since the car is under warranty it is either Ford’s or the oil change guys liability.”

Warranties do not cover negligence, on the part of either the car owner or a service facility.
In this case, the service facility was seriously negligent, and Ford will–correctly–disavow any responsibility for the damaged engine.

If the service facility will not offer to buy you a new engine, you will need an attorney.
Then, by suing for both the damages and for attorney’s fees, you can become whole again without having to spend any money.

Sincere good luck!